Online ticket scalping 'bots' complex issue, expert says

A Calgary technology expert says online ticket scalping is a complex problem that is likely here to stay.

Mumford & Sons concert in Calgary sold out in mere seconds with brokers taking the bulk

Ticked about tickets

9 years ago
Duration 2:08
Online scalping for big ticket concerts seems to be out of control. Efforts are underway to stop the trend, but at least one expert in Calgary says it won't be enough.

A Calgary technology expert says online ticket scalping is a complex problem that is likely here to stay.

Earlier this month, tickets for a concert in May by the popular group Mumford & Sons sold out in seconds.

The tickets were scooped up by online ticket brokers using sophisticated "bots," software that lets them make thousands of transactions in seconds.

The brokers then resell the tickets at inflated prices.   

According to University of Calgary computer scientist Tom Keenan, unless governments make online scalping a top priority, concert goers will continue to lose out.   

"If I'm there pushing my button, pushing my button, pushing my button ... and I do not get those tickets and they sell in 12 seconds, people start smelling a rat, and people think this is not fair," he said.

Other provinces have laws

While Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Manitoba all have laws designed to stop online scalping, there are no such restrictions in Alberta. 

"Until somebody gets the political will to do something about it, it's going to be a niche problem," Keenan said.

"Sooner or later though somebody is going to turn a very skeptical eye on how tickets are bought and sold on the internet."

Service Alberta spokesman Mike Berezowsky said the ministry is examining the problem.

"One of the things we really want to do is not just look at what the laws are, but how effective they've been," he said. 

Ticketmaster officials said the company invests millions of dollars per year trying to stop ticket-buying bots.

Last year Ticketmaster was ordered to pay $850,000 after a class-action lawsuit convinced a judge the company held back tickets and sold them on TicketsNow, a resale site it owns, in Alberta and three other provinces.